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Posted on Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 3:15 p.m.

Lack of education not responsible for failing library millage

By Letters to the Editor

Ann Arbor Library.jpg

The downtown Ann Arbor District Library.

Lon Horwedel |

I’ve been reading several articles regarding the failed 65 million dollar bond millage for a new library. It seems that there is tenacious resistance to accept the defeat on the part of supporters of the failed millage.

The general theme from library board members and supporters is they did not "educate” us properly. To all the $65 million supporters please allow me to say that I feel I am, and was, educated in the reasoning put forth in favor and against this failed millage and I chose to vote a “decisive no.” I suspect most other voters intelligently voted as well.

In a city that prides itself on being ecologically minded I’m surprised at its willingness to waste tremendous resources with the disposal of structurally sound buildings.

One of the main reasons for library replacement involves the maintenance of the infrastructure and the lack of funding to perform “needed” upgrades.

Instead of providing funding and planning for repairs, maintenance, and upgrades, it is more preferable for millage supporters to enter into long-term debt for “brand new shiny.” I think the electorate has sent a decisive message with our vote that there is a need to educate leadership on the difference between “wants and needs.”

I will agree leadership did not provide enough “education” regarding the specific structuring of that $65 million “long-term debt.” I suspect most supporters do not understand the fiscal realities of the actual financing or are even familiar with terms like “municipal interest rate swap” that has forced cities like Stockton, Calif., into bankruptcy.

Stockton government leaders admit they just did not understand the ramifications of the “long-term debt,” to which they readily committed their electorate in their quest to “improve” the city. So rather than analyze and strategize how to waterboard approval of another millage for a new library, I would suggest redirecting those energies into best serving the community with our existing resources.

Frank Dalimonte Ann Arbor


Doug Jewett, Ann Arbor

Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 11:55 p.m.

Mr. Dalimonte, I appreciate and agree with your thoughtful comments.

Bill Wilson

Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 4:07 p.m.

I doubt that another ballot will help the spenders: each and every day, more and more people come to rely on electronic means (computers/smart phones/smart televisions/Kindles/etc) to secure data, have meetings, and generally read books/magazines/newspapers. Expanding the library server system and its content would be cheaper, easier to do, and make much more sense. Brick & mortar library buildings are the modern day dinosaur.

Ron Granger

Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 8:01 p.m.

How much were they planning to spend on the "multi media production facility"? Please "educate me" on the specifics of how they intended to spend the cash.


Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 6:57 p.m.

Keep in mind that the vote was only about 7500 votes apart, some extra education, and especially debunking of the misinformation, could have very well swung the vote. Don't act like your "no means no" stance covers the entire populace. There are very many people who simply didn't like the specifics of what proposed, and could very well vote yes for future new library with an adjusted proposal that took in to account their concerns.


Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 7:08 p.m.

Ugh, I'm hearing the threat of another millage and campaign. We need to alter our charter to limit these millages.


Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 3:23 p.m.

Au contraire, A2Onward, so few details about how the $65 million (actually over $100 million with interest) would be spent on a new building that I am surprised so many voters approved of the bond issue. Schematics were not done, according to library officials, because the cost would be excessive for a plan that may not be financed. With the large size of the investment how can anyone deny spending enough to produce a visual rendition of the new building's exterior and interior designs. No breakdown in expenditures was provided as well. Only a 400-seat auditorium would be known to be included in the construction though one could suspect much more meeting space will utilize the additional 50,000 square feet available, perhaps creating a convention center-like facility (remember the Valiant Partner's conference center proposal?). And meanwhile voters were asked to forget that the present library is fully functional to the satisfaction of a vast majority of library users.

Ron Granger

Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 2:48 p.m.

There may have been criminal violations made by library staff in this election. An email was sent out to library patrons, on the private library patron mailing list, promoting the passage of the millage. That would seem to violate two laws. The first is the use of public resources for the promotion of a political agenda. The second is the abuse of the private library mailing list. The library privacy law is particularly strict, with severe financial penalties ($500 per violation, I recall). The mailing also raises questions about whether library employees were promoting the millage while paid by taxpayers, on library property. How else were taxpayer resources used to promote the millage? This isn't minor stuff - it needs to be investigated. The new library proposal includes a multi-media center in the new library, at unspecified cost. Will that also be used for political campaigns at taxpayer expense?

Bill Wilson

Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 4:11 p.m.

Gotta agree with Ron... something is wrong with this picture. Oh, and remember libs... there need only be the appearance of impropriety to warrant investigation. Isn't that what you used to claim?


Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 7:05 p.m.

I do think there are questions regarding these emails that should be addressed. There may have been a boundary crossed.

Ron Granger

Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 8 p.m.

"The proposal would effect all library patrons, so sending them all an email was absolutely appropriate." That does not justify using taxpayer resources to lobby, and enter the political process. Otherwise, similar justifications could be used to employ taxpayer resources to lobby and campaign for nearly any ballot measure, particularly those that levy taxes. The mailing list is specifically for notifying people of overdue materials, fines and when materials on hold become available. It is not a vehicle for political promotion or lobbying. Who made the decision to send the email? Who directed employees to send it? Were they on the clock? How do patrons opt-out of political mailings? How do opposing viewpoints target the list with "educational" materials?


Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 6:54 p.m.

Criminal? Please. That email that was sent was not promoting anything. It answered questions that the library had received about it's proposal with factual answers and specific numbers. The proposal would effect all library patrons, so sending them all an email was absolutely appropriate. If you consider facts politically biased, then by all means, continue with your witch hunt.


Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 5:41 a.m.

Exactly! No means no. Those of us who voted "no" have been insulted by those who claim we would have voted "yes" if only we'd understood the proposal. The proposal was clear. The anticipated cost was clear. The preference to replace instead of renovate was clear. More people voted "no" than "yes." Case closed.


Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 3:55 a.m.

Great opinion piece...totally means no, except in overpriveleged Ann Arbor circles where no means try again because everybody else must be a rube...


Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 12:22 a.m.

What is it about "no" that they do not understand? NO special elections for this issue to ram it through.......we are watching on this one.


Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 12:18 a.m.

Thank you, Frank, for a thoughtful opinion piece. Indeed, the library board and millage supporters are seemingly still holding onto the false idea that A2 voters weren't "educated" on the reasons proposed for the new building. They are like a dog with a bone, unwilling to let go of their loss and move on. A2 voters are educated and take voting seriously. They should not be underestimated. They have spoken on this issue and trying another "angle" or different "marketing strategies" isn't going to make any difference in the future. I totally agree with the last statement above: "So rather than analyze and strategize how to waterboard approval of another millage for a new library, I would suggest redirecting those energies into best serving the community with our existing resources." Amen.


Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 12:16 a.m.

Very well stated Mr. Dalimonte.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 11:47 p.m.

The writer is correct in my opinion. A pig with lipstick is still a pig. More education about a bad project only further explains why it should not go forward. The AATA found this out the hard way as well. I'm sure the grey emincences in the business community will bring this back to the surface. Maybe the new library will be directly connected to the new convention center and conference facility we do not need.

Linda Peck

Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 11:21 p.m.

I agree with you, Frank Dalimonte. It is my hope that the AADL will take care of the building they have downtown, and look to the wonderful and small West Side Branch that serves so many people in many ways. It is small and efficient. It is handy, in a mall where we all shop frequently, not stuck somewhere special we have to drive to just to pick up a book. It gives us exactly what we need within a very small space. It is always busy in there, but I can always find a comfortable arm chair to relax and read a magazine. Perhaps the downtown "branch" could see their way to take a cue from our West Side Library's success.


Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 7:37 p.m.

Actually, I don't find the west branch "small and efficient" at all - I'd call it smelly, cramped, and old. My family lives close by, but we pretty much only use it to pick up our hold requests. It is difficult to find parking there, they rarely have the books I am looking for, and there are never any "events" (like children's storytime or classes). I don't understand why there are no plans for a new west branch on the horizon. Literally every other branch has been built brand new within the past 10 years and the west hasn't even been renovated since the 90's.


Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 2:29 a.m.

Your post is also a valid description for the Mallets Creek Branch (opened in 2004) and the Pittsfield Branch (opened 2006). Efficient and busy, but seats are always available. A2 residents have opened three new branches (Traverwood - 2008) in the last eight years so I don't think we are the ones need "education"

Dr. Fate

Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 11:15 p.m.

I knew they wanted a new, improved library but I don't quite understand why this is such a bad thing.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 10:51 p.m.

I agree that the library board's problem was not lack of voter education; if anything, it was the reverse. My experience was that the deeper people delved into the library millage issues, the *less* likely they were to vote for it. Even people who started out with a natural inclination to vote for anything that had "library" on it -- even they began to shy off when they learned more of the details.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 10:47 p.m.

This is exactly what I said the first night after the defeat when it was clear that the supporters were not going to accept the vote of the people and were getting ready to start all over again, As I said then; it will take a least three turn downs before they get it. Ann Arbor is both intellectually and to a degree financially "rich". Our library staff is used to getting most things they want. They wont accept donations of good used books; they have to buy new everything. People have tightened their belts and expect the city & Library to do the same with some humility and less whining.


Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 12:26 a.m.

Most library systems do not accept donations of used books for inclusion in their circulating collections. Such donations are used for fundraising purposes through Friends groups. Having patrons donate willy-nilly to a circulating collection would totally warp collection maintenance.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 10:06 p.m.

My conclusion was the same as Mr. Dalimonte's, but for different reasons. Those pro-bond forces released an astonishingly sketchy precis of their plans for spending our $65 million, but on reflection it seems to me the construction was, essentially, a 400-seat auditorium wrapped in a few bookshelves and enough wiring to handle lots and lots of computers. The library says it circulates about 8 million items annually, but it seems never to have occurred to the library satraps and sachems that some of their customers not only read these items, but in their reading have learned critical thinking, too.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 9:04 p.m.

Aren't you glad that states, cities, and other municipalities can't print money? The Fed does and in spite of printing $$$, we are still forced to borrow nearly 50 cents on every dollar we spend as a nation.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 9:02 p.m.

the reason and the only reason was....... the people did not want a new one.!!

Macabre Sunset

Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 8:36 p.m.

The sad thing about all these millage requests is that no never means no. If a millage fails, even one as poorly defined as this one, it can and will be repeated (the next step is often to create an election date with nothing else going on at a time of year when most voters aren't paying attention) until it passes. We don't seem to recognize the bankruptcies in California as relevant to our existence. I think it's going to take a state-wide bankruptcy (Illinois may be ahead of California in this respect) with the subsequent fallout before the media begins any significant analysis of why this happens and why we need reform in the budgeting process. The library proponents should be ashamed of their attitude toward the "no" voters. But they will likely only become more strident, because they know they will eventually find an election date that suits them.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 10:29 p.m.

WHILE I share your sentiment; please pardon the typo!


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 9:39 p.m.

Well I share your sentiment, I disagree with your thoughts regarding an advantageous election date. I believe that backers of the millage were betting on the support of student renters, who usually turn out in greater numbers in a presidential election year. In my opinion, supporters won't have this good a shot for another four years!

An Arborigine

Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 8:33 p.m.

Well stated Frank.